Georgetown University temporarily suspended all study abroad programs at the Villa Le Balze in Florence, Italy, after the university announced a suspension of all university-related travel to South Korea on Tuesday over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the advisory levels for Japan and Italy to Level 2 on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23, recommending travelers practice enhanced precautions when traveling to these countries. University programs in Japan, however, have not been suspended. The CDC also elevated the advisory level for South Korea to Level 3 on Feb. 24, advising travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to the country.
The decision to cancel study abroad programs depends on the local conditions and development of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19, which Georgetown continues to monitor, according to a university spokesperson.
“The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak raises a number of considerations both in terms of health and safety, and also practical operational considerations with respect to the ability to most successfully support students abroad,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Because local conditions, support from on-ground partners, and travel restrictions vary by country, and by program, the university reviews these decisions on a program-by-program basis, after careful consideration of all relevant factors.”
The university is currently working individually with students in affected programs to coordinate travel efforts and create alternative plans as necessary, according to the university spokesperson.
Professors will implement instructional continuity plans for students in programs at the Villa Le Balze beginning March 9, according to the university spokesperson. Under the plans, students will still complete the required coursework from their semesters after being relocated from Italy.
Currently, the university has only announced the cancellation of the spring semester at the Villa Le Balze, a Georgetown-owned academic campus. Planned courses over the summer are currently still set to take place, according to journalism professor Ann Oldenburg (GRD ’20).
“I’m set to teach a new class, International Journalism: Reporting from Florence, this summer at the villa,” Oldenburg wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As of now, it’s still on, and I hope the students who have signed up will still want to join me there.”
Despite the Villa Le Balze cancellation, other study abroad programs in Italy have not been canceled yet, including all programs through the Institute for the International Education of Students, Brown University, Middlebury College and Duke University.
While the cancellation is unfortunate, it is a necessary step by the university to ensure the safety of students, according to Oldenburg.
“I was sad to hear that the Villa had to be shut down for this semester, but it seems a prudent move by the university,” Oldenburg wrote. “I just hope a cure will be found quickly and the spreading of the virus will soon be stopped.”
The suspension of the programs comes after the university canceled all study abroad programs in China on Jan. 28 during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. Before the university announcement, several programs independently made the decision to cancel their programs over fear of the spread of the disease. A university-sponsored trip to Cambodia will also be postponed until after the spring semester.
More than 80,000 people in 48 countries and territories have been infected with the coronavirus since the initial outbreak, and nearly 3,000 have died, according to CNN. Of the reported cases, over 78,000 have been from China, with around 2,700 deaths in the country.
South Korea has reported more than 2,000 cases of the virus, the largest outbreak outside of China, according to CBS News.
The university is working with students, faculty and administrators in South Korea programs to coordinate travel home, according to a Feb. 25 universitywide email from Provost Robert Groves announcing the suspension. Given the developing situation regarding the outbreak of the virus, the university will continue to assess university programs as news breaks, Groves wrote in the email.
“The uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus have made travel to countries with extensive interactions with locations severely affected by COVID-19 more risky,” Groves wrote. “While Georgetown has not prohibited university-sponsored or related international travel to any country other than China and South Korea due to COVID-19, the situation continues to be very fluid.”